Head Lines

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Do you have a favourite song?

I have a new favourite. Actually, it’s an old one.

It resonated with me most recently because of the prospect of summer, the acceleration of vaccines for people of all ages, and the easing of pandemic restrictions here in Canada. A world on the mend; a school looking forward to better times.

It’s written by George Harrison of The Beatles: Here Comes the Sun. You, too, might want to listen to it again. Lyrics like “It’s been a long cold lonely winter…it seems like years since it’s been here” lament the loss of sun and sunny days. But then, the emergence of the bright days sees “the smiles returning to the faces.”

Gosh, I think we can all relate. And what could be better than moving toward the end of the long lonely COVID-19 “winter” and the prospect of smiles returning to kids’ faces. Everyone’s faces…

Here comes the sun do, do, do, do
Here comes the sun
And I say it’s all right…

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Wednesday, June 02, 2021

The 2020-2021 academic year has been extraordinarily challenging for students and staff alike. The promise of accelerating vaccinations and declining cases of COVID-19 has given a boost to student confidence that the summer and next academic year will return to a more active and normal way of life.

Now that our TCS students have entered exams and end-of-year summatives, to demonstrate their understanding of the year’s material, it is a fair time to ask what the School has learned about itself this year.

Here are four key observations that I have taken from this past pandemic year:

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Wednesday, May 26, 2021

It seems like everything is a competition these days.

The rollout of vaccines is the latest. It’s Ontario’s vaccination rates compared to British Columbia’s. Nova Scotia vs. Alberta. USA vs. Canada. Moderna vs. Pfizer. AstraZeneca vs. Johnson & Johnson. And, the stakes are high.

Our happiness and safety are seemingly dependent upon the perception that vaccine rollouts are a zero-sum game. In short, if you are winning then I must be losing.

And, competition is all around us, both for kids and adults. Is my car better than yours? Does my Instagram account have more followers than yours? Why did you get the award and I didn’t? My country is better than yours. My sneakers are…blah, blah, blah. It can be a life of endless comparisons if you let yourself go there.

The reality is, that depending upon who you are comparing yourself to, you can feel like you are either winning or losing all the time.

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Thursday, May 20, 2021

Establishing a healthy work-life balance is a common yet elusive goal for most of us. For some, working 9-to-5 seems like the epitome of a good work-life balance but, for others, they find themselves effectively, “living for the weekend.”

With the advent of technology and email, it can now seem like you never “leave work.” Your work is always in your hand, your pocket and on your bedside table. Hmmm…suddenly 9-to-5 looks attractive again! And, of course, during this pandemic, millions of people have been working exclusively from home, prompting one to consider the advantages and disadvantages of working where you live and living where you work.

Clearly, the line between work and play, office and home, is blurred and getting blurrier.

Now, can you imagine being a teacher and living at your school for 14 years? And, along with your spouse, raising your two children at the school. All the while, being responsible for 50 other children in a residential setting.

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Thursday, May 13, 2021

Imagine trying to learn to ice skate online. Instead of summer camping, you watch a video of others camping. How about attending cooking classes through a live tutorial but not getting to make, nor taste, the final product? Consider taking piano lessons without a piano.

It's all absurd to contemplate.

Yet, there is a great deal of conversation, post-pandemic, that online learning threatens to replace in-person learning for kids.

It will not happen.

Schools do not exist for the simple transfer of content. We have Google for that. Schools are about understanding and learning through hands-on experience. The act of “doing” is what school is all about. And, this “doing” happens in real time, through tactile activities and interactions, together with others.

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Wednesday, May 05, 2021

My kids would attest that, of my many foibles, I am at my least calm when I am stuck in traffic. I have an explanation; not an excuse.

When it comes to commuting to school or work, I have been exceptionally spoiled my entire life. The past 17 years I have had the privilege of living where I work. No car necessary. Prior to this, when we lived in Toronto, I would leave to work before 6:00 a.m. There was very little traffic and it took me 10 minutes to get to my destination. When I lived in Hamilton, Ontario, I would cycle to work. When I worked in Ottawa, for 10 years I lived in residence as a boarding housemaster. Again, no car necessary. During my university days I could walk, skateboard or cycle to class. During high school, again in Ottawa, it took about 20 minutes by car to get to school and the lion’s share of the drive was along the Rideau Canal; there was one traffic light on the canal back then.

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Wednesday, April 28, 2021

While observing stay-at-home orders, like billions of other people around the world with nowhere to go, I certainly find myself sitting and talking more than ever. And, talking about more substantive matters regarding issues affecting our school, the local community and countries the world over. There are serious issues facing us these days and I think the reality is that the immediate existential threats of pandemics, population growth and the negative impacts of climate change on our planet, have forced these conversations – and many other important issues – into mainstream media, Zoom calls, our collective consciousness and found a seat around the dinner table.

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Thursday, April 22, 2021

We all make mistakes. And, we all know that we will make more. “To err is human.”

But what governs your daily behaviours? Whom do you listen to or take direction from?

Let me ask you a few more questions: Why do you wear a mask during the pandemic? Do you drive the speed limit? Do you stand when you hear another country’s national anthem? Do you respect a moment of silence during a funeral service? Do you have heightened respect for your elders? If there is an extra slice of pizza at a party, who gets it?

There is likely no single authority or rulebook that you rely upon in order to make everyday, routine decisions. It depends. Sometimes there is your own internal voice guiding you. Sometimes you might hear your mother or father’s voice. Perhaps, the Bible or the Koran. A prime minister or premier. The CEO of the company. The policy manual. Your spouse.

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Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Judging by my own relatives, it appears that as you get older it is harder to follow the language of younger people. And, not just because of hearing loss. Kids invent their own words, or they borrow the phrases they hear from friends or in favourite songs or films. I guess we did too in our younger days. But, to be honest, as of late, I was finding it hard to understand conversations in my own house, let alone at the School.

I thought it would be a good distraction if I provided a list of some of the terms that are used these days by the younger generation. (Instead of focussing on the new adult language of the pandemic with words and expressions such as pivot, flatten the curve, N95, emergency brakes and assorted others.)

This short guide will enable you to better understand your kids and their friends. Warning: Do not use these terms yourself. Timing, inflection and emphasis are critical and age makes it very “uncool” to insert these into conversation.

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Wednesday, March 31, 2021

In the history of humankind there have been a host of world-changing and life-changing events. Some took place over time; some were immediate. With the light at the end of the tunnel offered by ramping up vaccine programs, recent conversations have turned to how the pandemic will change our lives going forward.

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